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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Use Yoga to Control Holiday Eating

Food and the holiday season go hand in hand. Use the lessons from among the "Ten Commandments" of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to control your eating habits this year. Patanjali, a great sage of ancient India, is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, the guidebook of classical yoga. Written at least 1,700 years ago, it's made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom.

The Yamas and Niyamas, the first two branches of Patanjali's Eightfold Path from the Yoga Sutras, are very useful this time of year. Of particular interest are Ahimsa and Aparigraha from among the Yamas, and Santosha and Swadhyaya from the Niyamas.

Ahimsa - Non-Harming
Whether you are vegetarian or not, there is one being you can seek to refrain from harming all of the time: Yourself.
This applies to the choices you make about what you put into your body. Remember, most things are not going to harm you in moderation. The danger of this time of year is the quantity of food, alcohol, and sweets available - not to mention the additional social engagements involving eating. Plus, with less time to get everything done, more people skip their workouts - when this is the time we should be working out even more! Commit to keeping yourself healthy this entire holiday season and you will feel less stressed and have more energy to spread the joy.
Ahimsa also applies to negative self-talk. So don't beat yourself up if you can't do it all this season!

Aparigraha - When Enough's Enough
Sometimes, the toughest part of eating during the holidays is simply pushing away from the table. Aparigraha reminds us to listen carefully to our bodies and stop eating when we have eaten enough. Try to put your fork down between each bite of food and focus on chewing your food while you eat. If you are afraid of wasting food, or feel obliged to make excuses, ask for a doggy bag for leftovers to take home. Many home cooked or restaurant meals can be dinner and lunch the next day. Hostesses will be flattered if you say you're full, but perhaps could pack a few leftovers to take home? As long as you will eat them later, it isn't greedy to ask for doggy bags to save food from going to waste.

Santosha - Contentment
What's more important about the Holidays: the food or the company? Okay, so the truth is most people think it's a little bit of both. But just because you love holiday food, that doesn't mean you have to heap your plate to overflowing. If you practice contentment with the present moment, living in the "Now", you will be able to eat mindfully. Taste the smaller portions to their fullest, and truly savor each bite. Enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and the company that create the Holiday atmosphere as much as or perhaps even more than the food.

Swadhyaya - Save Room for Dessert
You know what your favorite holiday foods are. If you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will have a slice of Auntie Darlene's Black Forest Cake at the end of a meal, be aware of that throughout the meal. Eat only a bite of stuffing to appreciate the flavors, perhaps skip the mashed potatoes and gravy entirely. We all know how to make good decisions about eating, but we forget our sense of moderation in the melee of Holiday hubbub. Even if you choose to celebrate with merry abandon, please remember to be kind to yourself above all else.

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren

Monday, December 21, 2009

Folic Acid and Prenatal Health

A new Study by University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute in Australia found that synthetic and non-natural folic acid supplements taken by mid-to-late-term pregnant mothers may lead to a much higher risk of asthma in the child. LINK Researchers are urging pregnant mothers to continue supplementing with folic acid, however during late stages of pregnancy mothers should switch to natural sources of folate. Folate levels in preconception and prenatal women influence the child's nervous system development. Low levels of folate can lead to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children aged 7 to 9.

Folic acid (folate) is a B-vitamin essential for proper cellular division because it is necessary in DNA synthesis. Without folic acid, the fetus' nervous system cells do not divide properly. Vitamin B is most often found in dark leafy green vegetables. Despite folic acid's wide occurrence in food (it's name comes from the Latin word folium, meaning "foliage," because it's found in green leafy vegetables), folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world. Foods with high levels of folate include:

Spinach: spinach offers 25% of the daily value of folate per ½ cup cooked serving. A serving of raw spinach still gives you 15% of the daily value of folate. Try adding fresh spinach leaves to your salad or your favorite fruit smoothie. Add cooked spinach to your lasagna, stir fry meals and soups.

Black-eyed Peas: A half cup serving of black-eyed peas contains 25% of your daily value of folate. Toss them on top of your salad, into stir-fry meals, taco fillings, or as a stand-alone side dish.

White Beans: White beans pack 20% of your daily value into a 1/2 cup serving. They are great added to soups and chilis, or tossed with vinaigrette and spinach for a white bean salad.

Asparagus: Just 4 asparagus spears give you 20% of you daily folate value. Rub them with garlic and put them on the grill or chop them into smaller pieces and toss them with your favorite pasta dish.

Broccoli: A 1/2 cup of frozen, fresh or steamed broccoli offers 15% of your daily folate value! Roast it with garlic as a side dish, toss fresh florettes into your salad or your favorite pasta dish.

Brussel Sprouts: A cup of Brussels sprouts supplies 93.6 mg of folic acid and they're probably my favorite vegetable! These lovely minature looking cabbage heads are delicious sauteed with olive oil and garlic. Simply cut them in half sautee and then top with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

As with everything health related, natural is what matters. Whole, natural, unprocessed, food free from additives, preservatives and packaging will trump any synthetic, processed supplement.

Keep it Fresh!